It’s easy to get excited about steel. It’s one of the most useful, versatile and dynamic materials, which can transform into products that truly matter to all of us – houses, buildings, sports stadiums, BBQs, automotive and so much more.

As our Managing Director and CEO, Mark Vassella says: “If steel is not ‘in’ something, it’s probably in the machine that was used to make it – and that’s what makes our team at BlueScope so passionate about innovating with this great material. We’re collaborating to create what’s coming next for our industry, redefining and expanding the role that steel can play in our communities.”

BlueScope is incredibly proud to be involved in so many exciting initiatives that will improve the use of steel around the world and we’re now going to share three examples that highlight the positive impact it’s having:

  1. A ‘living’ sustainability centre – inspiring better building practices
  2. Grassroots education in China – encouraging China’s brightest students to consider careers in steel.
  3. Project Reframe – changing the way Australians build.

1. A 'living laboratory' for improving building materials, design and operation

Tasked with shaping the buildings of tomorrow, the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) had to quite literally ‘live’ its own brief. Located on the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus, the building was designed and built with a range of industrial partners, including BlueScope. The SBRC not only embodies sustainable design, it is a ‘living laboratory’ that aims to improve building materials, design and operation. A place where researchers and students develop, prototype and test sustainable building technologies and tools for residential and commercial applications.

Already a ‘Green Star 6-star’ building, the challenging brief was made tougher by the decision to seek certification with arguably the world’s most demanding sustainability rating, the Living Building Challenge (LBC), which encourages buildings to be net zero energy and water, to connect more readily with the natural environment, and provide comfortable and restorative places to live and work.

As a ‘living laboratory’, the SRBC’s ‘high-bay’ roof is divided into two discrete sections using COLORBOND® steel in the colour Surfmist® and COLORBOND® Coolmax® steel, enabling their performance as cool roof materials to be better understood and compared. These materials were chosen for their high solar reflectance (low solar absorptance) and high thermal emittance, resulting in the potential to help improve the thermal performance of a building*.

The ‘energy’ category of the LBC assesses embodied carbon footprint, so the use of steel throughout the project was carefully scrutinised. The architects specified slender, high-strength structural steel for the building’s frame and lightweight steel cladding for roofing and some upper-level walls. The building also met the high standards demanded by the waste requirements of the LBC, with BlueScope materials being manufactured locally and incorporating recycled content. BlueScope is also committed to responsible and sustainable sourcing practices that create, protect and build long term environmental, social and economic value – all key sustainability and responsibility measures.

The SBRC has now become a hub for a range of buildingrelated collaborative research programs between staff, students and BlueScope. Within the ARC Research Hub for Australian Steel Manufacturing (2014-2020), the use of light gauge structural frames in mid-rise apartment buildings was extensively examined for the benefits they offer in cost, speed of construction and performance, while physical features embedded into the SBRC supported the examination of building facades that actively contribute to more efficient heating and cooling of these building types.

More recently, within the ARC Research Hub for Australian Steel Innovation (2021-2026), an extensive program of investigation is underway to better understand the complex interactions of heat and moisture with the building fabrics commonly in use. And although Australia’s varied climates differ substantially from those found across the world (making much of the overseas research inapplicable), the SBRC’s expertise in modelling the vastly different conditions within Australia, from Hobart to Darwin, is vital in developing solutions that work well in Australia. This important research aims to improve the way Australian dwellings function in synergy with their prevailing climates in order to provide healthy, comfortable and energy efficient buildings.

These highly successful research programs of academic and industry collaboration have and will continue to shape Australian building practices for the better. As a finished build, the SRBC not only stands as a testimony to what can be achieved with steel, but also provides great insight into how steel can deliver more in the future.

*’Results will depend on roof colour, level and location of insulation, type and location of building shape and function’.

2. Encouraging China's brightest students to consider careers in steel

In China, BlueScope provides important support and funding to university students across a whole range of engineering studies. This plays a vital role in increasing awareness and knowledge of the positive impact steel has on the world, helping to inspire some of China’s best students to consider the incredible opportunities that a career in the steel industry can have.

Historically, this has involved working with several Australian colleges and universities, hosting student visits to our facilities from educational establishments such as Sydney University, SCEGGS, and TAFE New South Wales. However, due to recent travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, visits to sites such as our state-of-theart Suzhou coating line have not been possible, so our BlueScope team in China has cleverly developed an interactive online portal that now makes virtual visits possible.

The East China University of Science and Technology took advantage of this exciting new opportunity, hosting a virtual visit of Coated China via the cloud platform by a group of MBA students in the petrochemical industry in October 2021. The live video exchange was able to give them a unique insight and understanding of BlueScope’s activities and aims for the future in China. The discussion covered several important challenges, such as how to maintain our position in the industry, how to successfully continue to embrace multiculturalism, and how to encourage and develop collaborative work between Chinese and foreign employees.

Further important contributions to the education sector are being made by Butler (a BlueScope company). One of the leading suppliers in the pre-engineered building industry, Butler has partnered with Shanghai city Science and Technology School since 2010, funding their popular CAD Skills Competition. Nearly 70% of the students majoring in engineering have participated in the competition since its inception. It has proved a great way for Butler to help the school to identify outstanding talent, and it has helped the school to achieve some excellent results in both the city and national competitions.

Each year, Butler also sends professional technical experts to the school to give lectures to the students, sharing the latest knowledge and smart solutions for steel and steel structures. Such teaching helps give students a good understanding of modern management techniques and some real-life practical knowledge from professionals in the steel industry.

Another example comes from the West Region of China, where Butler has had a longterm partnership with Xi’an Eurasia University since 2011. Each year, Butler provides training and lectures to civil engineering students, whilst identifying the outstanding students who will be invited to join Butler after their graduation. The relationship between Butler and the University is a strong one – the bilateral leadership team visits and communication happen regularly, ensuring the ongoing partnership is a win-win for both the University and Butler.

For BlueScope in China, it’s all about attracting the best possible talent and providing a solid foundation for building a better, brighter future with steel.

3. Changing the way Australians build